Across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula usually attracts visitors for its shopping, but there’s another reason to make the trip across the water. Situated in the east of Kowloon Peninsula, the Kwun Tong neighbourhood of Hong Kong stretches from the forested hillside and rocky outcrop of Lion Rock in the north, to Lei Yue Mun channel in the peninsula’s south.
From its roots as Hong Kong’s first “˜new town’ – built on Kowloon’s historic salt yards in the “˜50s – Kwun Tong evolved from the city’s industrial hub, expanding its boundaries over the years to Kowloon Bay and Yau Tong, to a more community focused district. And it’s this rapid growth that changed the face of Kwun Tong forever more.
What people are most excited about though, is the neighbourhood’s cultural regeneration. Tempted by low rents, artists, designers, entrepreneurs and musicians moved into the old factory buildings and warehouses, bringing with them a fresh arts scene and an influx exciting new venues.
But not long after the city’s creatives made their mark on the district, Hong Kong government began implementing plans to transform Kwun Tong into an upscale business district, introducing skyscrapers to the neighbourhood’s streets, amidst the old factories and warehouses, which combined with the burgeoning arts and music scene has made the district what it is today.
A garden within the city
From a Kwun Tong rooftop, designer Michael Leung runs HK Farm with a collaborative of other artists, designers and farmers, producing local, organic food to highlight the importance of urban agriculture. And, with their own beehives, the collaborative are also the people behind HK Honey. Visit the urban farm’s market to pick up some genuine HK produce and take part in one of their workshops.
If you’re in need of a tranquil oasis from the bustling city, head to Hong Ning Road Park. Wander through the traditional Chinese-style garden, between lakes and pavilions, across arched bridges and to a waterfall. And if you’re feeling active, take to the tennis courts or jogging trail.
Alternatively, take a walk along Kwun Tong Promenade, which with a boardwalk, sensory garden, café and performance stage has plenty to see along the way.
The neighbourhood dining scene
An array of hip restaurants and cafes are now tucked within Kwun Tong’s former industrial buildings. Japanese restaurant Kokon2 in the Kwun Tong Industrial Centre is one that has proven to be resoundingly popular for its bento boxes and sushi.
The fact that it’s impossible to pronounce this establishment’s name hasn’t put people off making it their meet-up point. SYUT by tfvsjs is an eatery and music studio in the Gee Luen Factory Building on the western edge of Kwun Tong by post-rock band tfvsjs, who converted the space, even making their own furniture to fill it. The raw, industrial interiors are the setting for lectures and music performances, while the restaurant puts out experimental yet homey dishes with Italian and Nordic inspiration.
In Kowloon Tower, MIC Kitchen by Michelin-starred chef Alvin Leung has made waves for its innovative dishes – like Carabinero red prawn with handmade “˜har mi’ noodles – with both western and Asian influences and elements of molecular cuisine. For top quality fresh seafood though, it’s hard to beat Lei Yue Mun Seafood Bazaar. Take your pick from a live-seafood stand, and then take it to one of the bazaar’s restaurants to be cooked for you. It’s no secret that the dim sum is a must-try in Hong Kong. Gut Gut Dim Sum is one to try in Kwun Tong for its delicious choice of both sweet and savoury dim sum.
A number of designers have set up shop in Easy-Pack Creative Precinct, including The Cave Workshop, which creates chic yet quirky pieces of well-made furniture from reclaimed materials. Meanwhile, over by Lei Yue Mun, it’s one of the neighbourhood’s old schools that’s been transformed into Jockey Club Lei Yue Mun Plus. This community arts and culture space encompasses the performing arts, a ceramics studio and a café, as well as a rooftop garden. Check out the cultural centre’s calendar for its packed schedule of events, including a number of workshops.
You can also take part in workshops at Sealing Stone DIY Studio where the focus is placed on using traditional Chinese handicraft techniques to make contemporary-style items such as resin jewellery, music boxes and tote bags. Also in the neighbourhood, is the street artist-led studio Start from Zero. This trendy studio hosts furniture-making workshops in which participants can create pieces like wooden stools and unique coffee tables.
If you need inspiration first, spend some time at Osage Gallery in the Union Hing Yip Factory Building, which is the setting for exhibitions by both international and local contemporary artists. For musical inspiration, take note of the top venue, Strategic Sounds, where digital and experimental musicians perform at the weekend.
To find out more about the neighbourhood’s resident artists, check out the project KT Factory Studio, which showcases the set-ups of artists and designers in Kwun Tong, from music studios to arts exhibition spaces.
An afternoon pick-me-up
For an afternoon pick-me-up, drop into Italian-style espresso bar Zai Fé, which with a name meaning “˜strong, black coffee’ in Cantonese, serves up exactly what you’d expect. At Coffee Art in E Plaza there’s a wide array of both hot and cold coffees, with classics like affogato and espresso macchiato, as well as sweet favourites like green tea and sea salt caramel lattes.
Take home a memento
Head on over to Sunday Agenda, a monthly arts market and music festival at the indie venue, Hidden Agenda. This eclectic venue plays host to film screenings, workshops, exhibitions and parties, with the live music on offer ranging from punk, rock and reggae, to jazz, techno and folk.
Pop-up markets and events are held by A Nice Place To “¦., too, but if your stay doesn’t coincide with one of these events, check out the handmade items at KaCaMa Design Lab, where each stylish piece is created from recycled objects like old hangers and corks.
With so much to uncover in one part of town, take a ferry over from Hong Kong Island and set out on your own discovery of Kwun Tong’s hidden spots.
Booking your flight to Hong Kong couldn’t be easier with Virgin Atlantic’s daily direct service.
Have you explored the neighbourhood of Kwun Tong? Which were your favourite venues? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Lauren Hill